Egypt state TV inconsistent in constitution decree row

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Anti-decree protesters say the Muslim Brotherhood has hijacked the revolution

Egyptian state TV channels have shown inconsistency in their coverage of the latest political row surrounding President Mohammed Morsi's decision to issue a decree granting himself extensive powers, despite apparent attempts to shed the view that they might be used as a propaganda tool.

The decree, issued on 22 November, says the president's decisions cannot be revoked by any authority, including the judiciary. It also says that the constituent assembly tasked with writing a new constitution, which is dominated by Islamists, cannot be dissolved by the courts.

The decree also allows for the retrial of former President Hosni Mubarak and other officials who served under him, and for the dismissal of the public prosecutor.

Although the main state-owned TV channels - Channel 1 and Nile News TV - have featured guests both supporting and criticising the move, they have dedicated noticeably more time to figures supporting the decree.

Some observers say this is due to the fact that the current information minister, Salah Abdul Maqsoud, is from the Muslim Brotherhood. Under Mubarak, state TV stations were seen as propaganda tools.

Initial welcome

Following the announcement of the decree, both stations were quick to interview figures likely to defend Mr Morsi's decision.

As the decision began to draw angry reactions from judges, political forces and revolutionary groups, the channel seemed to take a more balanced view, featuring guests who criticised the move.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Mr Morsi has tried to defuse the crisis by promising that his new powers would be limited

But , over the next few days, both state-run TVs gave noticeably more airtime to figures from the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Mr Morsi belongs, or supporters of the declaration.

Anti-decree protests

However, the state TV stations' coverage of the protests organised against the presidential declaration and held in Tahrir Square seemed to be largely balanced. They showed images from the square packed with people, and linked up with correspondents who talked freely about the demands of the protesters, some of which called for Mr Morsi's departure. Moreover, Nile News interviewed Mamdouh Hamza, one of the strongest critics of the MB, who sharply criticised the declaration.

Internal criticism

On the day the decree was published, state-run newspaper al-Ahram said that an internal report by a commission monitoring the performance of state-run radio and TV described the state TV stations' coverage as "non-professional", "confused", and "lost" as they waited for directives on how to cover the news.

According to the report, such discrepancies had been evident in coverage of the protests against an anti-Prophet film in Egypt, a recent train accident in Asiyut which killed 50 children, and the presidential decision to re-assign the public prosecutor to another job.

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